Posts Tagged ‘gift ideas’

Turns out, we live in a very outgoing neighborhood. Since we moved here six months ago, we’ve had the pleasure of attending neighborhood potlucks on the Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Halloween. In this holiday season, we’ve received a homemade hot cocoa mix, two plates of cookies, peanut brittle, and the songs of adorable little carolers.

In the spirit of the holiday season and of this neighborhood, my husband and I decided to make simmering potpourri packets to share with our neighbors. A few years ago, a friend gave us one of these, and I thought it was such a clever idea. Sometimes you need a gift that’s more than a card but less than an “actual” gift, if you know what I mean. These potpourri packets fit that category perfectly. This year, I’m totally copying my friend’s idea. Now you can too. 🙂


Ingredients for each packet:

1 fresh orange, as flawless as possible

2-3 cinnamon sticks

2-3 star anise

1 whole nutmeg

1 T. whole cloves

1 T. whole allspice

Here’s how we put together our packets. First, we assembled our supplies, which included all the ingredients above, as well as cellophane gift bags with twist ties, ribbon, miniature ornaments (a 9-pack on sale for $1.24 at JoAnn!), and printable labels (adhesive mailing labels work well).

We printed the following instructions on the labels:

Holiday Simmering Potpourri

Slice the orange. Add the orange slices and as many of the spices as you wish to boiling water in a saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered. This potpourri can be left simmering for hours at a time, but be sure to add water as needed. Please do not leave unattended. Enjoy!

Before stuffing the gift bags, we trimmed the labels to size and attached them to the front of the gift bags. Then we placed an orange and the appropriate amount of spices in each bag and sealed the aroma inside with a twist-tie. Finally, we strung a miniature ornament on a piece of ribbon and attached it to the bag.

(We also decided to also include a holiday photo-card, but this is totally optional. To do this, we simply punched a hole in the photo and strung it through the same piece of ribbon, making sure that the photo and the ornament were on opposite sides of the gift bag.)

Here we are, ready to deliver a bit of holiday cheer to the neighbors:


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Oh. My. I have just discovered Squishables. Have you seen these? “They’re giant, round, fuzzy, stuffed animals,” says the web site. “Hug them.” Oh, yes, I want to. Especially the Squishable sheep:



And while I’m at it, here are some other cute or unusual gift ideas:

For the poet or the inventor whose best ideas are always scribbled on the back of a napkin: The Napkin Notebook

Napkin Notebook


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To relish beauty and Mother Earth, all year-long:

2008 “Birds and Blooms” Calendar from PaPaYa!


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For the budding artist and book lover:

Linnea in Monet’s Garden

Linnea in Monet's Garden

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To create inspiring spaces for the home:

Custom Decorative Lettering

Decorative Lettering


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For the dreamer:

Limited edition print of Mati Rose Mcdonough’s “Believe” painting




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To proclaim your love for your tech-support guy:

“I Love My Geek” T-shirt

I Love My Geek T-shirt


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To warm the tummy and soul:

Snowman mugs with frother from Williams-Sonoma

Snowman Mugs


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For the gardener-cook:

A quartet of fresh herbs


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I love French memo boards. I think they look nicer than plain cork board, and as a bonus, you don’t have to worry about push pins tragically becoming cat toys. Not that it’s ever happened, but you never know with those fuzzy-headed members of our household–specifically, this one:

this fuzzy cat

and this one:

this other fuzzy one

I’ve also discovered that I love making French memo boards. Have you made any? They’re super easy and quick to make. I was a bit under the weather today, but I rallied and made this one:

French memo board


  • an old art canvas
  • fabric
  • ribbon
  • sewing pins
  • backing fabric or board +fabric tacks (or alternately, buttons + thread)
  • a hammer
  • a staple gun


1.  Cut your fabric so that it’s large enough to wrap around to the back of the canvas.

2. With the fabric placed face-down on a smooth surface and the canvas situated face-down on the fabric, staple the fabric to the back edge of the canvas. Make sure the fabric is taut. You’ll want to staple along one edge first then pull the fabric taut (but not so tight as to stretch it out of shape) and staple the opposite edge. Repeat on the remaining two edges.

3. Cut the ribbon. You’ll need two pieces that are long enough to reach diagonally across the board from one corner to the other. You’ll also need four shorter pieces that are long enough to reach diagonally from the center of the top edge to the center of the side edge. All of these ribbon pieces should be long enough to wrap around to the back of the canvas.

4. Starting with the longer pieces, position the ribbons and pin them in place.

5. Staple the ribbons on the back of the board. Start by stapling one end of a ribbon in place. Remove the pins holding that ribbon in place, stretch the ribbon tightly across the front of the board, and staple it in place. Repeat with the remaining ribbons.

6. If you’re using fabric tacks, you’ll now nail through the spots where the ribbons cross. Turn the board over and hammer the tacks to the side so that they’ll hold in place and won’t pose any risk of injury. If you’re using buttons, sew them into place where the ribbons cross, making sure to catch the ribbons with your thread.

7. If you’re using fabric tacks, you’ll cut a piece of backing fabric or board that is slightly smaller than the canvas itself. It should be large enough to be attached to the back of the canvas frame but small enough that it will not be visible from the front of the board. If you’re using buttons, this step is optional. Staple or nail the backing piece to the back of the canvas frame.

8. Trim any excess fabric or ribbon, especially if you are not using a backing piece.

9. To be able to hang your French memo board for display, you may want to attach a ribbon to the back of the board. Simply staple a piece of ribbon to the left and right edges of the frame on the back. Position it about 1/3 from the top.

You’re done!

Gift Ideas 

French memo boards have endless potential for customization. Experiment with colors and background pattens. Try a friend’s favorite color combination for a birthday gift, pink or blue gingham and a lacy ribbon for a baby shower, or shades of ivory and white for a wedding gift. To further personalize these gifts, add photos and thematic quotes or poems.

There are a couple more photos of my memo boards on Flickr, if you want to see.

Have a blissful weekend, everyone!

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